What is your home décor saying about your values? Is the flat-screen TV the focal point of your living room? Do you proudly display your entertainment center, with recliners and sofas facing it like a stage?Maybe you have built-in shelves for the speakers, a display case for your PlayStation games and DVDs, and all the wiring neatly hidden away in the wall.
Every time you remove a book from your home to make space for a wireless speaker, you send your children a message. The bigger our homes, media rooms and open concept floor plans get, the more we tuck away the books.
Maybe this is how you remember your childhood: a towering stack of novels on your parents’ night table; book cases lining the family room; piles of books in your bedrooms carefully selected from the public library; hidden paperbacks that you were not old enough to read, and lazy summer days when your older sister would not put down her romance novels, or squabbling with your brother for the hammock, the best spot to read in the backyard. Books surrounded you.
Today, our homes overflow with electronic gadgets. Book shelves have been repurposed to hold Sonos, PlayStations and home theaters. Books have been exiled from the place of honor in the living room, to the basement and eventually to the give-away-to-charity boxes.
It is imperative that we re-ignite our relationship with books and revitalize our book culture.
According to a 20-year comprehensive study conducted by Mariah Evans at the University of Nevada, UCLA and Australian National University (2010), the presence of books in the home is a greater predictor of a child’s educational attainment than the parents’ level of education. Evans and her colleagues found that as few as 20 books in the home will significantly impact the level
While the presence of books may be inspiring, the trend in reading frequency is less encouraging. In 2014, Time magazine reported the results of the Common Sense Media Report.
The statistics were staggering. For example, the percentage of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percentage of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percentage of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled between 1984 and 2014, from 9% to 27%.
We need to bring the books back up from the basement and scatter them through our homes again. E-readers may be convenient and minimalist, and they are terrific travel companions. But Nooks and Kindles do not allow us and our children to linger over the bookshelf and spark our curiosity. A book cover may entice us and beckon to our fingers. In the process, we discover new interests. According to the Children’s Literacy Foundation, when students are asked which book they most enjoyed, 80% respond that one they selected themselves was their favorite.
The key to increasing literacy starts in the home, and there are many ways to begin:
- Decorate your living room with books. Photography books, travel books, even the large glossy coffee table books are affordable now. You can find them at yard sales, second-hand book stores and school fundraisers for only a few dollars.
- Stack cookbooks in the kitchen. Give them life; chocolate and tomato smudges are fine.
- Leave anthologies of short stories or funny stories in the bathroom.
- Strategically clutter your teenagers’ room with books. Given the messy state of most rooms, they may barely notice the intrusion at first.
- Use reverse psychology wisely. Tell your child the book is out of reach because they are too young and watch them try to sneak a peek. Imagine their surprise when they discover a mystery book.
- Tuck away books in the back seat of the car on long drives.
- Choose vacations by looking at guidebooks in addition to Trip Advisor.
- Create comfort moments with books. Studies demonstrate that stress levels decrease significantly after only 6 minutes of reading. Associate R&R time with books, even if it boils down to leafing through pages.
- Offer your child a book with a handwritten note in the cover of how they brighten your life. When they are discouraged or moody, you can remind them to read the front cover of that book. In the privacy of their rooms, they may reach for that book more often than you know.
- Support their interests by complimenting them with books. They love hip hop, give them a book written about a hip hop artist.
- Read print books whenever you can. Show your children you are reading a book, not a device.
- Store books with catchy book covers next to your teenager’s favorite sofa.
- Allow your children to read a print book in exchange for staying up an extra 30 minutes.
- Turn books into conversation pieces with your children, and let them see you doing this with other adults. Ask your children their opinion about what they are reading.
- Snuggle with the family pet and a book when you curl up on the couch.
The more imaginative you are in re-introducing paper books in your home, the more choices you give your children. Seed their childhood and teen years with fond memories of books. With spring cleaning underway, it is the perfect time to replace the winter clutter with books.
Chantal Jauvin is an international attorney who has combined her passion for experiencing other cultures with her pursuit of a global legal career. She has lived in Japan, Mexico, Cambodia, Russia, Austria, taking shorter assignments in Vietnam while pursuing her MBA studies in the UK. She has negotiated in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paulo often enough to almost call these cities home. Igniting her lifelong enthusiasm for language and other societies, she has turned her attention to writing in her quest to understand how our souls are touched by the blended world in which we live. Jauvin currently resides with her husband in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.